Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You Can't Ask For Much Moore In A Player

After a stellar four-year career at UConn, Maya Moore now pursues bigger and better after being selected first overall by Minnesota Lynx in Monday's WNBA draft. (Photo courtesy of New York Daily News)

Good players come a dime a dozen. Great players come every few years. Exceptional players (you know, the ones that define their sport and transcend it for future generations to marvel at in the history books) are those rare gems that come along every decade or so. We've seen it in the NBA, for example. You have your good players, (Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, etc.) your great players, (LeBron James, Karl Malone, Shaquille O'Neal, etc.) and the exceptions to the rule named Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The University of Connecticut women's basketball program shares that axiom. Geno Auriemma has had his good players over the years, (Jennifer Rizzotti, Nykesha Sales, Swin Cash, etc.) and his great players; (Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird) but never had that one player that rose above and beyond the perennial national championship contender known as UConn to become a household name in women's basketball and sports in general.

That is, until Maya Moore walked onto the campus in Storrs, Connecticut; and left four years later as not just the Lady Huskies' all-time leading scorer and a two-time national champion; but in the opinion of this writer, quite simply the greatest college player he has ever seen.


That's right, Moore has done more in her four years than I've seen anyone else at the collegiate level attempt in my quarter-century (I turn 25 in August) on this earth. In fact, Moore would be the greatest player I'd ever seen had it not been for Jordan and Kobe. Never has a player been able to take the court and make what she does look so effortless. When I had the pleasure of calling a UConn women's game when the Lady Huskies took on my alma mater St. John's two years ago at Carnesecca Arena, (click here to see my take on how much the Lady Huskies' record 89-game winning streak means to me) a then-sophomore Moore stood out for being, quite simply, amazing. An athlete who is just as attractive physically as her on-court skills are? If you're a true sports fan, you're probably saying "Sign me up!" before even reading any further. My former colleague Reginald Bazile shared his thoughts on Moore in an e-mail to me recently, and he had this to say:

"Maya Moore is the greatest women's college basketball player of all-time!

Now before you throw names such as Cheryl Miller, Chamique Holdsclaw and Diana Taurasi at me, just read on.

With their fourth NCAA Final Four appearance in four years, the UConn Lady Huskies have again showed why they are still the team to beat. The overall number one seed destroyed the Duke Blue Devils in the Elite Eight after the game was close early.

When you start to break down this team's success, two words come to mind; and
even though head coach Geno Auriemma has built this program from the ground up, I was thinking more of their senior guard, Maya Moore.

Moore, who just surpassed 3,000 points for her career, was also named to her fourth consecutive All-America Team; making it the second time in women's basketball history that this ever occurred. (Courtney Paris of Oklahoma being the other from 2006-2010) The Connecticut Post has a list of some of her other accomplishments here:

She has had to shoulder more of the load on this team this season with the graduation of Tina Charles and the injury to Caroline Doty to start the season. Playing much of the season with a minimum of 4-6 freshmen and sophomores per night, Moore never did seem to get down on her teammates or chastise them for making a poor play. She was always there to motivate and lead not only by example; but also to cheer her teammates, as shown on ESPN's broadcasts throughout this NCAA tournament. Even when their winning streak of 90 games was snapped back in December in Palo Alto against Stanford, there was still no breaking of this champion as they had not lost a game since.

Although the Huskies were defeated by Big East foe Notre Dame in their Final Four matchup, I won't be the only one wondering if Maya Moore is the greatest of all-time."

Two days ago, Moore officially wrapped up her career at UConn when she was selected first overall by the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA draft. It is my hope that Moore's arrival will do for the WNBA what Michael did for David Stern's National Basketball Association when he was drafted out of North Carolina by the Chicago Bulls in 1984, and that is rejuvenate a stagnating brand that is admitting that it has seen better days. Look at what Jordan did for the game over his career. Maya Moore can do the same for the ladies on the professional circuit; and when she does, hopefully we can all agree that she will take her deserving place among the aforementioned exceptional players that only come along once or twice in a lifetime and will be treasured forever.

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